Rishi Sunak warned that ‘more must be done’ to tackle climate change today after a last-minute deal at the COP27 summit.
The PM cautioned over ‘complacency’ amid criticism that not enough progress had been made at the gathering in Egypt.
Meanwhile, the UK’s envoy Alok Sharma pointed to major holes in the latest agreement, saying the prospects of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees are on ‘life support’.
The UN gathering controversially sealed a pact on a ‘loss and damage’ mechanism, set to see developing countries pay billions to states hit by extreme weather and rising sea levels.
That move has prompted anger among Tories who dismiss the idea that the UK should hand ‘reparations’ for historic carbon emissions.
Protests against fossil fuels outside the COP27 summit in Egypt
Campaigners have been demanding a ‘loss and damage’ fund at the COP27 summit in Egypt
Rishi Sunak said ‘more must be done’ after the deal was struck in Egypt overnight
Mr Sunak attended the COP27 earlier this month despite originally shunning the event.
He said in a brief statement today: ‘I welcome the progress made at Cop27, but there can be no time for complacency.
‘Keeping the 1.5 degrees commitment alive is vital to the future of our planet.
‘More must be done.’
The slogan of ‘keeping 1.5 alive’ dominated discussions at the summit in Glasgow last year, when Cop26 President Mr Sharma and the UK delegation steered efforts to limit global warming.
Speaking at the summit’s closing plenary session, Mr Sharma said that progress on loss and damage has been ‘historic’ but warned that it was not a moment for ‘unqualified celebration’.
‘Many of us came here to safeguard the outcomes that we secured in Glasgow, and to go further still,’ he said.
‘In our attempts to do that, we have had a series of very challenging conversations over the past few days.
‘Indeed those of us who came to Egypt to keep 1.5 degrees alive, and to respect what every single one of us agreed to in Glasgow, have had to fight relentlessly to hold the line.
‘We have had to battle to build on one of the key achievements of Glasgow.’
Mr Sharma’s speech, delivered after what appeared to be fraught and last-minute efforts to broker a consensus, pointed out the gaps in the agreement.
‘We joined with many parties to propose a number of measures that would have contributed to this. Emissions peaking before 2025, as the science tells us is necessary.
‘Not in this text.
‘Clear follow-through on the phase down of coal. Not in this text.
A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels. Not in this text.
‘And the energy text, weakened, in the final minutes.’
He added: ‘Friends, I said in Glasgow that the pulse of 1.5 degrees was weak.
‘Unfortunately, it remains on life support.
‘And all of us need to look ourselves in the mirror, and consider if we have fully risen to that challenge over the past two weeks.’
The 1.5C target comes from the Paris Agreement, the global treaty on climate change negotiated in 2015.
That is the level where low-lying islands believe their survival will be threatened.
Governments and experts will now closely consider what the deal means in the fight against climate change.
Labour’s Ed Miliband accused countries of ‘kicking the can down the road’ in Egypt as he criticised the ‘complete absence’ of leadership from Mr Sunak at the summit.
Mr Sunak (pictured in Kyiv yesterday) attended the COP27 earlier this month despite originally shunning the event
The shadow climate change secretary said: ‘Yet again we hear the unmistakable sound of the can being kicked down the road on the necessary actions to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees – and as a result it is now at grave risk.
‘Too many countries were clearly resistant to what is required, including on fossil fuels.’
Lord Deben, chairman of the Climate Change Committee, said that while the 1.5C target is not a ‘lost cause’ urgent action is needed.
He told BBC Radio 4’s World this Weekend programme: ‘It’s better than I feared, because the Egyptians had a very tough time to try to get this right.
‘But it is nothing like as good as we need to be if we’re to keep the rising temperature down to 1.5C.’
‘I don’t think 1.5C is a lost cause. I don’t think we can allow it to be a lost cause.’
Katie White, executive director of advocacy and campaigns at WWF, said: ‘While a deal on loss and damage finance is a positive step, it risks becoming a down payment on disaster unless emissions are urgently cut in line with the 1.5C goal.’